Promoting Habit Change in the Real World
by Seth Munsey
4 minute read
In October 2013, I decided to take on the 10,000 KB Swing Challenge by Dan John. If you aren’t familiar with the 10,000 KB Swing Challenge, it involves taking a Kettlebell and swinging it 10,000 times in a month. Simple, yet brutally effective. The challenge is broken down into 500 swings a day for 20 days. Mix a few simple exercises in-between swing sets and before you know it, you are a leaner, stronger, and more explosive. There’s just one problem, you have to count out 10,000 swings over 20 days. Math was not a strong point of mine, so I decided to improvise. I remembered the pitch counters they used at my RKC during the snatch test, and figured I would give it a try. Every time I finished a swing set, I would record the number of swings on the pitch counter. I noticed that clicking the counter and watching the total rise was getting me pumped up. 500 swings didn’t seem as daunting to me. The next swing workout, I decided to leave the prior days totals on there and just start from 500. Seeing that pitch counter hit 1,000 swings on the second day fired me up! Hearing the auditory click of the counter 500 times a day was addicting. I kept the previous days total on there and before I knew it, I had completed my 10,000 swings. So three weeks into the challenge, I wasn’t just completing 500 swings on a Tuesday. I was hitting 7,500 swings!
From my experience with the motivating powers of the pitch counter during the swing challenge, I looked for other ways I could implement it. I spend a majority of my free time studying habit and behavior change, motivation, willpower, and emotional intelligence. I believed the pitch counter could play a role in creating positive habit creation with my members, so I decided to test it out.
I recruited five members from my training facility, Iron Republic, to participate in a habit change experiment. I provided each member with a pitch counter and gave them a few simple instructions:
Leave the pitch counter in a place where you will see it everyday. Examples are; next to the alarm clock, where you charge your phone, by the front door.
Everyday, complete 10 bodyweight squats, then record those squats as 10 clicks on the pitch counter.
After recording the squats, tell yourself, “I’m awesome.” This idea came from Stanford Professor BJ Fogg and his “Tiny Habits” protocol.
Once a week, I would text all five participants to check in and give them positive reinforcement.
After 30 days, all participants reported great success from using the pitch counter. All five had performed the 10 squats a day, which allotted to 300 squats by the end of the month. Each of them stated that the pitch counter played a large role in keeping them motivated during the process.
At the start of the second month, I asked if they would like to add in five pushups after the set of 10 squats. They all were happily on board. After two weeks, I gave them the option of increasing the pushup count to 10, but never less then 5. Sixty days into the trial, each participant had successfully completed 600 bodyweight squats and between 150 and 300 pushups. One participant started completing her habit at work during the week. The entire office was intrigued, and began completing the squats and pushups with her. During this time I created a secret Facebook page to check-in daily with the participants.
At the three-month mark, I consulted with my good friend Coach Stevo about further habits. His advice was nothing short of genius. He said, “give them the option to choose their next habit.” One member decided to add in 10 burpees, while his wife optioned to tell her husband something she loved about him, which she said she didn’t do enough.
We are now five months into the habit trial and the participants have completed roughly 1,500 squats and between 1,050 and 1,200 pushups. They are all excited about hitting 3,650 bodyweight squats at the end of the 12-month mark. I’ve given them all the option of no longer using the pitch counter, but told them to pull it back out if they start to get off track.
I will be rolling out the use of pitch counters with my Iron Republic members within the next month. I have also been working on other ways to use the pitch counter within Iron Republic and will be implementing those soon.
There is a lot more to the pitch counter experiment then I could fit in this article, so if you have any questions about how to setup a similar program, please feel free to email me at Seth@IronRepublicStrong.com. One thing I caution however is to just buy pitch counters and start rolling them out with your members. It is crucial to start talking about healthy behavior change with your members. They won’t buy-in to small tiny habits when the culture of the gym is radical transformations in a short amount of time.